In an interview with Deadline last Friday, George Clooney expressed ire for Third Point hedge fund chief Daniel Loeb‘s criticism of Sony Pictures management, claiming Loeb didn’t know the first thing about the movie business. I didn’t have room for it in the article–George covered a lot of ground–but Clooney even criticized Loeb’s choice of historic flops to liken to two Sony summer misfires, After Earth and White House Down. Clooney said that he felt both After Earth (a $130 million budget film that has grossed $242 million worldwide) and White House Down (a $150 million budget film that grossed $117 million worldwide) would not end up as precedent-setting losers when all the money is counted down the line. But he also said that Loeb calling Waterworld, and maybe even Ishtar, all-time flops showed a naivete about the way studios cover their risk. In fairness to Loeb, both Waterworld and Ishtar have been easy targets because their production cost overruns made each big news in its day.
Ishtar cost $55 million and grossed $14 million domestic, and, well it’s tough to put a happy face on that film in any discussion. Clooney and others would argue that Waterworld is a much different story. Now, I can’t count to 20 without taking off my shoes, but an industry numbers cruncher shared with Deadline a cost/profit analysis on Waterworld, even adjusting the numbers for inflation and again to reflect ways that the tent pole business has grown more favorable to studios than back when Waterworld was released in 1995. The numbers make an argument consistent with Clooney’s point. (more…)